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Colombian Researcher Tragically Killed by Elephant in Uganda

image courtesy of Arizona State University

A Colombian researcher identified as Sebastian Ramirez Amaya working for Arizona State University in the USA was killed on Sunday, April 9, 2022, after being trampled by an African forest elephant in Kibale National Park in western Uganda.

Sebastian and his research assistant, both stationed at Ngogo Research Station while carrying out routine research, came across a lone elephant which charged at the duo forcing them to scamper in different directions. Sadly, the elephant chased Sebastian and trampled him to death.

Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) confirmed that their staff had retrieved the body of the deceased and were working with the police in Fort Portal city for further management.

Extending condolences to the family of Sebastian, UWA stated:

“We have not experienced such an incident in the last 50 years of forestry research in Kibale National Park.”

The forest elephant, loxodonta cyclotis, is the smallest but more aggressive of the three living elephant species, reaching a shoulder height of 2.4 m (7 ft. 10 in.).

Forest elephants in Uganda can be found in a few national parks and forests such as Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Kibale National Park, Semiliki National Park, the Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park, and Mount Elgon National Park.

In January 2022, a Saudi national was charged and killed by an elephant in Murchison Falls National Park after he alighted from the vehicle he was traveling in along with the company of other occupants.

Located in southern Uganda, Kibale Forest National Park is said to be home to the highest density of primates in Africa whose drawcard includes 13 species of primates, 300 bird species, and 250 species of butterflies to keep visitors busy. Visitors can look forward to chimpanzee tracking, birding tours, and guided nature walks.

Sebastian was unaccompanied by a ranger, perhaps since it had become a daily complacent routine. Usually, visitors hiking the forests are always accompanied by an armed ranger so that in case of any threat, shots can be fired in the air which is usually enough to deter any attack.

Sebastian’s profile on the Arizona State University page reads:  “I study non-human primates behavior and ecology, specifically of those who live in ‘high-degree fission-fusion societies.’ I study the Ngogo chimpanzees in Uganda, and two communities of spider monkeys in Colombia and Ecuador. My dissertation aims to elucidate the nature of male-female chimpanzees’ social interactions and its implications on future reproduction.”

Hopefully Sebastian’s research in a habitat that he made his home will not be in vain but instead inspire many undergraduates in pursuit of their dreams and of the sometimes-unpredictable jungles of Africa that sadly blew Sebastian’s candle out at the untimely age of 30 with so much life ahead of him. May he rest in peace.

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Tony Ofungi - eTN Uganda

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